Diving Kota Kinabalu

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Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia

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Country: Malaysia  Area: Malaysia

Water Temp: 25 - 31°C (77 - 88°F)

Visibility: 8 - 15m (26 - 49 ft)

Depth Range: 6 - 35m (20 - 115 ft)

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Kota Kinabalu is located in separate Federal State of Malaysia in the north of the island of Borneo. 

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Kota Kinabalu – KK more commonly – is the rapidly growing capital city of the state of Sabah. Modern, busy and fringed with resorts, the city is known for being incredibly friendly and diverse. Though normally visited as a necessary stopover on route to Sipadan or the jungle, the town does have a certain charm. We have mountains, Parks, Forests, Orangutans, Elephants and so great food. The waters around Kota Kinabalu form the corner of the Coral Triangle holds a large diversity of Marine Life.

Sabah as two distinct diving areas – West and East Coast. The east coast containers such World Famous places as Sipadan, Mabul and Mataking Island, However on the West is a forgotten and often misunderstood jewel. With good quality safe and easy diving from PualuTiga home to the CBS 1980’s Survior Series to the World War 2 wrecks at PulauUsukan. Sandwiched in the middle is Tunk Abdul Rahman Marine Park ‘TAR’. This park is mere 15 minutes by boat from the city centre and offer great and easy diving for all.

The diving in and around Kota Kinabalu is easy with a few more challenging sites in the North. Most people who come to Kota Kinabalu to dive come to learn or just have some great easy diving. Being next to a city you can dive in a marine park by day and party by night if you wish. Or just watch sunset.

Kota Kinabalu waterfront, Credit

Marine Conservation

Marine conservation project work can be organised through MRF Marine Research Foundation or Reef Check Malaysia.

Kota Kinabalu, Credit

Climate

Temperature and humidity is roughly the same all year 30 to 32C with 60 to 80% Humidity. Wet season is around Jan to March but it never rains for long and it is still warm, either way it is worth checking that your desired Dive Center is operating during this time.

 
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Shore Diving

There is no shore diving in Kota Kinabalu. 

Day Trip Diving

Essentially all diving is conducted from boats. 

Some of the most visited sites are located within the Tunk Abdul Rahman Marine Park (TARP), just a few minutes boat trip from the shore. Here you will find 5 beautiful islands and vibrant marine life. Pristine coral, thousands of schooling fish, frogfish, octopus, turtles and a handful of seasonal sharks and rays can all be seen here. Sites vary from beginner to advanced, and surface intervals are spent on one of the protected islands.The only negative to these sites is that visibility can be quite bad as a result of heavy rains.

Fish, Credit

There are also 3 number of WWII wrecks to be explored. All however are quite deep and require a minimum of advanced open water certification. 

Night dives are offered by a number of operators.

Liveaboard Diving

A number of liveaboards depart from Kota Kinabalu before heading out into Layang Layang, the Spratly Islands, Tioman, Jack Rock and the 7 Skies Wreck (depending on the time of year). 

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How to Get There

The easiest way to get to Kota Kinabalu is by air. The city has an international airport (BKI) which connects to airports within Malaysia and throughout Asia and Australia. The airport is 7km away from the city center, and there are shuttle busses, taxis and mini busses that connect the two.

Kota Kinabalu traffic - sweet road huh?! Credit

Other bus services connect KK to neighboring cities throughout Sabah, and a ferry connects Kota Kinabalu to Labaun.

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Where to Eat & Drink

There are countless options for places to eat and drink throughout Kota Kinabalu. The town has a very diverse population of residents, and the cuisine available completely reflects that. No matter where you choose to eat, you’ll likely have the choice between anything from Chinese to Malaysian to European to Japanese inspired restaurants.

Beef burger, Credit

Restaurants along the pier tend to be among the pricier options in the city, while smaller food shops tend to set up along the streets. Centerpoint Shopping Center is the place to go for fast food, while SEDCO Square has a great and popular variety of seafood.

Sunset in Kota Kinabalu, Credit

The waterfront is where most of the nightlife is located. Here, you’re likely to find anything from coffee shops to karaoke and clubs. Be sure to check with locals for bars playing live music or entertainment on particular nights. With a lot of options,a bit of guidance and advice is always helpful - that said local advice does not always mean taste!

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Other Activities

A ton of activities in and around Kota Kinabalu provides a break for divers, and options for non-divers. 

Walking throughout this rapidly growing city will carry you past a number of different sights and monuments, including a clock tower (ooh), the Double Six Monument, the Petagas War Memorial and a number of parks. A light walk up Signal Hill easily provides the best views of the city center. In town, there are also a number of good shopping locations. You will easily be able to pick up anything from local handicrafts to international brands.

City Park! Credit

A few different centers highlight the regional wildlife. The aquarium is a great place to take kids unable to dive, while the wetland center is the perfect place to learn about the birdlife that thrives in the mangroves. A wetland river cruise through the Klias Wetland Mangrove Forest Reserve is another great way to explore the mangroves – and possibly spot a rare Proboscis monkey. 

Deep sea fishing is a very popular sport in Kota Kinabalu as well – partly because it is one of the cheapest places to organize trips from. 

The beaches are of course one of the most popular destinations, with a number of beautiful public beaches located just outside the city center. The best beaches are however located slightly further away on the northern coast. 

If traveling with children, a few dive shops do offer Bubble Maker courses. There are also a number of operators who run snorkeling trips.

Leave your watch at home! The Famous Clock Tower, Kota Kinabalu, Credit

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Tips

With all purchases in Asia you get exactly what you pay for – pay cheap and get cheap. For food and drink, the further you eat away from the sea front the cheaper it will be.

There is a hyperbaric chamber in Kota Kinablau It was opened in 2012 and is currently the newest one in Malaysia. 

Some ravishing Kota Kinabalu buildings, Credit

 

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